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2011 Subaru Forester 2.5X Touring Road Test And Review By Larry Nutson

2011 Subaru Forester 2.5X Touring  (select to view enlarged photo)
2011 Subaru Forester 2.5X Touring

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2011 Subaru Forester 2.5X Touring Affordable practicality

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

My scheduled drive time in a 2011 Subaru Forester fit perfectly with a road trip that would take me from the city life of Chicago on the western shore of Lake Michigan to beautiful and serene Harbor Springs, Michigan, sometimes called the “Newport of the Midwest”. Harbor Springs is in the northern reaches of Michigan’s lower peninsula. This 370 mile drive around the lower end of the lake and then north to its eastern shore and Little Traverse Bay would proved plenty of seat time.

All total I put about 800 miles on the Forester. The nearly six-hour drive each way between Chicago and Harbor Springs proved to be very comfortable and stress-free. The Forester’s road manners are quite good; wind and road noise at expressway speeds is unremarkable; seats were comfortable with good support that left me un-fatigued; my actual fuel economy ranged between 25.5mpg and 26.5mpg. I prefer a road-trip vehicle that will go a day’s drive without refueling. With the Forester’s 16.9gal fuel tank I should have made it. But with my fast highway cruising speed I wasn’t quite maximizing the fuel economy and I didn’t feel comfortable with trying to squeeze it, so I refueled en-route.

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The Forester is on its third iteration as Subaru’s compact SUV. Redesigned for 2009, the 2011 model continues to be improved and refined. What I like about the Forester is that it drives like a car but also has lots of utility…I’m a station wagon fan. I spent a couple of my recent years living in Connecticut and Subarus in New England are as popular as a lobster-roll sandwich. They are everywhere; market share is huge. Most of them are carting some form of recreational equipment such as a bicycle, a kayak, or skis in winter.

The Forester is offered in six different models. The 2.5X powered by an all-new, 170HP, 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder comes in a base model, a Premium, a Limited and a Touring. Prices start at $20,495 for the base. The 2.4XT is a turbo version with 224 HP and is offered in Premium and Touring starting at $26,995. EPA Fuel Economy estimates are 21 city mpg and 27 highway mpg for both transmissions in the 2.5X. The 2.5XT is rated at 19 city mpg and 24 highway mpg and by the way requires premium fuel.

Like all Subarus the Forester has Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive. Subaru’s system sends power to all wheels all the time. There are two different versions of the Symmetrical AWD, depending on transmission. Models with 5-speed manual transmission feature Continuous AWD with a viscous-coupling locking center differential that splits power 50:50 front to rear. Models with 4-speed automatic transmission use Active Torque Split AWD with electronically managed continuously variable transfer clutch that actively manages the power split based on acceleration, deceleration and available traction. Both systems power all four wheels and will transfer power to the wheels with the best grip.

The 2.5X is available with a 5-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic. The 2.5XT come only with automatic. I thought the 170HP engine in my Touring test car had good horsepower and torque characteristics. Acceleration, highway merging and passing were good. I thought the engine had to work too hard with the 4-speed automatic and think that a 5 or 6-speed automatic, which has become quite the norm today, would be a great product improvement.

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The Forester is a very practical compact SUV and is well suited for anyone of any age with an active lifestyle. The seats and the interior finish are nicely executed. Door openings are large for easy ingress and egress especially if wearing outdoorsy-type clothing. The 30.8 cubic foot cargo space behind the rear seat can carry a lot of stuff whether it be for a road trip or weekend camping. A high ground clearance of 8.7 inches is great for occasional unpaved road or deep snow excursions. Or if you stay in the city, the 179.5 inch overall length makes for easy parallel parking and parking structure navigation.

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The Forester has a NHTSA 5-star ratings in all crash tests; 4-stars for rollover. It’s an IIHS “Top Safety Pick” and gets a recommended rating from Consumer Reports. A full range of safety equipment includes frontal air bags, front seat side-impact air bags, side curtain air bags, active head restraints, anti-lock brakes (ABS), Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) and tire pressure monitoring.

My Touring model test car had power door locks, dual power mirrors, power windows, 10-way power driver’s seat, leather upholstery, heated front seats, panoramic moon roof, roof rails and a rear vision camera.

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Warranty coverage is 3 years/36,000 miles basic, 5 years/60,000 miles powertrain, 5 years rust perforation, 3 years/36,000 miles 24/7 roadside assistance. Subarus are sold through a network of approximately 600 dealers across the United States.

Larry Nutson